What to Know About Working on Pilots

FEBRUARY 14, 2022
Background Actors on set of How I Met Your Father.
Behind the scenes of How I Met Your Father (Hulu, Isaac Aptaker)

Pilots are a great opportunity for Background Actors, Stand-Ins, and doubles to get booked on potential new shows. If you want to increase your chances of getting cast in a pilot, here are some ways you can prepare.

What is a pilot?

A pilot is a stand-alone episode used to sell a new TV show. Traditionally, the bulk of network pilots were filmed between January and April. Now it’s more common to film pilots year-round or skip the pilot phase altogether by greenlighting shows with straight to series orders, giving Background Actors the opportunity to work on new shows throughout the year.

Benefits of working on pilots

Pilots offer a variety of background job opportunities and since everyone is working hard to get the show ordered to series, pilots are a great way for Background Actors to get noticed for their professionalism and ability to perform on set. If the pilot gets picked up, it could lead to more background jobs on that show. If it doesn’t, it’s still a chance to make a good impression with the ADs and other crew. You never know where new connections and opportunities will lead you.

Pilots are also a great opportunity to try to land Stand-In roles. If you want to work as a Stand-In, you know it can be hard to break in, often because Stand-Ins are hired based on their experience. Some pilots may choose to hire Stand-Ins with no experience if they match the needed height, build, and/or look of the principal actor.

How to get cast in a pilot

One of the best tools you can use to find work is your online profile. Central Casting uses your profile when looking for Background Actors; by filling it out completely and accurately, you can help show Casting Directors the types of roles you can portray. It’s incredibly important to update your profile any time your look changes, even if you think the change is something small. Going up or down a size, cutting your hair, or modifying your facial hair are just a few examples of changes that can matter to Casting Directors.

Adding photos of your current look is another great way to help Casting Directors determine the types of roles you can portray. A good rule to keep in mind when uploading additional photos is quality over quantity. A quality photo only features you, includes your face, is taken in good lighting, does not include filters, and is not edited or altered. Photos where your face is obscured, are dark, blurry, or include other people are not useful in determining the types of roles you can portray.

Preparing for upcoming pilots is a great opportunity to make sure your online profile reflects your current look. Don’t forget to add vehicles and props you own and any pets you are willing to work with.

In addition to responding to availability inquiries from Casting Directors, you can proactively look for work on our Jobs page. Job posts will include information about the role, like portrayable age, portrayable ethnicity, union status, and other requirements. Please read all of this information carefully to ensure you fit the look before responding.

You will be given specific submission instructions, usually including providing additional information, like current sizes or a recent photo. These materials are needed to determine if you fit the role, be sure you’ve included everything requested before submitting.

When looking for Stand-Ins, Casting Directors will often ask for a resume. Your Stand-In resume should be one page and formatted like a standard resume, with the name of the show you worked on, how long you worked on that show, the name of the actor(s) you stood in for, and if the project was single or multi-cam. Be sure to keep your resume handy so you’re ready to submit when a Casting Director asks for one.

Being successful is more than just knowing how to get cast in a pilot. Check out these five background acting tips and how to make the most of your time on set.

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By Meghan Dubitsky

Article Category:

Industry Essentials